Tiny House Story
It is really all about possibilities.
Henry G. Izatt Middle School is a Grade 5 – Grade 9 School. The school team has been working, over the past few years, to intentionally adjust program delivery. The team is skilled in their knowledge of curricular outcomes. We observed many students engaged in projects outside the school, and outside the school day, without realizing the connection to learning. We began to use the term “bringing extra in”. Students learned to articulate curricular outcomes covered by way of involvement in their outside interests. Students demonstrated their understanding even though some learning was not happening in the context of the classroom. This invitation, conversation and collaboration began to open minds and programs. Project based learning, inquiry, design process, student leadership, global citizenship and involvement in community issues became even more relevant. All of these components became networked into the school fiber. Flexibility within the timetable was one important result, along with students pursuing passions during the school day.
The Tiny House project has its roots in a number of these historical pieces at Henry G. Izatt. There were two problems to consider. The first was “What significant project could be introduced to involve interested students from all grade levels and engage them collaboratively in integrated learning with relevance to future sustainable learning?”
When the first problem was presented it paralleled the student work within belonging and global citizenship initiatives and fit well with the HGI school pillars of Humanity, Growth, Innovation and Sustainability. With the Tiny House movement receiving attention on television networks and local news, it also added the component of economics as young people are facing mortgage and rent decisions different from their parents. Science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics are all significantly embedded in the Tiny House idea. The plan brought meaningful and connected learning to the school population.
The second problem is “How are we going to design and build a Tiny House?” Essential questions were identified by and with the students and the project was off to an enthusiastic start. 85 students from all grade levels stepped up and are engaged in one or a number of the committees working collaboratively on segments of this plan.
There is choice from the start. Some students have begun work on what the school would like to do with the Tiny House once it is complete. Donation to a homeless family has been a recurring wish. Others are working on researching building codes, while others are watching related broadcasts to get ideas. Others are gathering information on intentionally living smaller and leaving a smaller foot print.
We invited an architect to speak to the involved students about architecture, engineering and design. It was observed that the 60 students able to attend that presentation all were having their learning needs met and their imaginations ignited. Whether students were there to gain information on the occupation of an architect, hear about the design of a stairway or gain understanding into the process involved in developing blueprints through the building process, all received something out of the presentation and were animated to find their next step.
The path to completion of this project will be a lengthy one. The level of engagement of the students, the teachers as well as community members and parents is high. The presentation with a contractor added more information in to the mix as the project is turning into achievable parts.
We already know we cannot go wrong with this. Already a community of people is excited about the possibilities in this project. We have students keeping journals of the ideas and progress, students requesting pieces of graph paper to work on scale drawings, students downloading home design apps, and parents talking to students about details they will have to remember in their plan. Relatives who are electricians, plumbers, or builders are being consulted by their young nieces or nephews. There will be stumbling blocks and the opportunities for learning will increase exponentially.
Last week the grade 9 woodworking class designed and built a scale model of a Tiny House. This model demonstrates accurate 16 inch centers, headers and framing details. It provides a starting point for the student budget committee to count the studs to be able to price the initial cost of lumber required. Grade 5 students were overheard in the hallways talking about “egress”.
The idea of “can’t” has not yet crossed the minds of the students at Henry G. Izatt Middle School. As the large number of students and adults continue on this path together, the idea of school becomes secondary to the excitement of learning and doing. There will be regular problems to work through together, or to contact a community expert to assist us.
This is really about a possibility that will engage students and adults in learning together that will provide a framework so sustainable in so many relevant academic areas, we can already “hear” the distant pride and the exclamation, “We did this!”
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